Read: Psalm 116:15
“15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.”
The local news I watch posts obituaries as a public service, giving the name, age, community, and funeral details if known of people in the area who have died. Most of the time it’s interesting (and sometimes I’m not ready to start my day that way). Occasionally there is a person who has an unusual title before her name; it is “Mother” – like “Mother Wilma Jones” (made up name). The word “Mother” used in this way has two possibilities: 1) It is a title given to the Head Nun of a convent, and 2) It is a title given to a select few women in some black churches. It that second meaning that I see among the obituaries in our area, noting the death of a black woman who held this position of honor in her church. It is more common in the south, but it happens here too.
A “Mother” in some black churches is a highly respected matriarch in her church. She is known for her deep faith, commitment to prayer and God’s word, and is a caregiver, nurturer, and role model for others in the church – and in the community. The title is earned over time, not quickly given. Sometimes there is a group of Mothers who regularly pray together for the church and community; they are “The Mother Board”. What a wonderful tradition. When I see an obituary for Mother Wilma Jones, I know that there is a church and community that is deeply moved – there is grief at a huge loss and there will be one heck of a celebration of her faith!
That is the sense of Psalm 116:15: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.” The word “precious” has a nuanced meaning here – there is some sense of endearment (like, what a precious child), but there an even greater quality of precious meaning “costly”. Think of a football team losing its top player/leader, it is greatly impactful – that person is irreplaceable! That’s how the scripture describes the death of a great leader in the faith community – in God’s eyes! There is a great loss, there is a big hole left behind when that person dies. God is eager to raise up leaders: equipped, empowered, and led by the Holy Spirit, guided by the word and tempered by prayer, steadfast in their commitment and persevering in service. In our walk with Him, may we have eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to know, and minds that are open to the Way of Christ.
Pastor Rob Nystrom